The Amgen Tour of California rode through part of Santa Barbara County Monday afternoon. This year’s route took cyclists through an area affected by the Montecito mudslide.
Because of the mudslide, the course had to be rerouted. The race would have gone straight along Highway 192 from Carpinteria, but because that’s right where a majority of homes were destroyed or damaged, the course was moved downtown.
Montecito business owners are thankful for that.
"It’s pretty painful. It’s a slow recovery," said Sharon Byrne, Executive Director of the Coast Village Association. "People here have a strong spirit and they want to recover and they want to be a strong community, but that was a big blow. You don’t bounce back overnight from that."
The portion of Highway 192 along East Valley Rd. is under construction as Caltrans works to replace damaged bridges.
The change diverted riders from a portion of Highway 192 to downtown Montecito along Coast Village Road, bringing race spectators to the mud-free sidewalks dotted with restaurants and small boutiques.
"Many of the merchants here have had a really rough go of it, obviously, since the Thomas Fire last year and the mudflow event," Byrne said. "So for us, this is a comeback story and kind of a rebirth story. We went from a disaster to a fun central place that everybody wants to be."
Local business owners are excited and hopeful that this big race will bring tourists and spectators to their shops.
"We’ve lost a lot of tourism and that’s been really important to us and all of our ownership," said Kevin Frank, K. Frank shop owner. "We want to be known as a place where people can come shop and eat."
"It’s important for us to stay in business so we have to get more people in here," said Alex Noormane, Giovanni’s pizza shop owner.
"What we are hoping for is to send a huge message to the world: We are open for business and we are in great shape, please come see us," Byrne said.
After passing through Montecito, the Amgen cyclists crossed the finish line at Gibraltar Peak.
Egan Bernal won Stage 2. The men’s race next goes to King City before finishing in Sacramento on Saturday. The women’s race starts on Thursday.
Business owners are hoping this event continues to fuel foot traffic downtown until the swing of summer business takes off.